Obama budget proposal marks overall decrease in Indian Affairs

Written by at February 15, 2011
Strengthening Tribal Nations initiative could increase support to tribal programs

Amid cutbacks, President Barack Obama is requesting to decrease the allocation to Indian Affairs by nearly $120 million in his proposed 2012 fiscal year budget.

However, Obama’s budget proposal, which was released Monday, also includes significant increases allocated to tribal programs in a proposed Strengthening Tribal Nations initiative.

In Obama’s plan, Indian Affairs – which includes the BIA and the Bureau of Indian Education – would get 2.5 billion, a decrease of $118.9 million from the previous levels, according to the Department of Interior.

Interior officials say the cuts come mostly from the elimination of one-time tribal college funding and the completion of construction projects. Still, officials noted that other tough cuts needed to be made.

“The president’s budget request for Indian Affairs recognizes the need to uphold our responsibilities to Indian Country,” said Larry Echo Hawk, assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, in a statement. “By making these tough choices now, we can continue to make the vital investments needed to sustain economic growth and recovery in Indian Country while maintaining our core functions.”

Funding reductions for tribes come from the completion of several construction and loan programs. They would also come from real estate projects. Outright program eliminations would include some community development training and a residential education placement program.

In his proposed Strengthening Tribal Nations initiative, Obama would allocate $89.6 million to improve conditions in Indian Country particularly in law enforcement, energy development, land management and education.

Specifically, the proposed initiative would increase funding in four areas: $42.3 million to help advance nation-to-nation relationships; $20 million to protect Indian Country; $18.4 million to improve trust land management; and $8.9 million to help advance Indian education.

The increases seek to help tribes run viable tribal governments, increase capacity to fight crime, protect natural resources and implement environmental management in Indian schools, according to Obama’s plan.

For example, Obama is asking for funds to operate new detention centers constructed with stimulus funds, while increasing funds for tribal courts and to hire more tribal police officers.

Obama’s proposal is just that. The budget plan is likely to face months of scrutiny as both houses of the legislature seek to make their own changes before final approval.

Obama’s administration also reported that the Indian Health Service is seeking to increase its budget by $589 million, according to the federal department of Health and Human Services.

In a statement issued today, the White House said that the increase in IHS funding supports Obama’s commitment to “implement the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act by (both) continuing existing and implementing new IHCIA provisions.”

The Department of Justice is also seeking $500,000 to create a sexual assault clearinghouse for tribes to provide onsite training and assistance to improve response times as well as treatment at the community level.

This would be in addition to a $1 million request to conduct research on the issue of violence against Native American women, according to the department.

Overall, Obama’s proposed budget would provide an increase of $424 million for criminal justice programs involving tribal areas.

For more information on Obama’s proposed budget for Indian Affairs: http://www.bia.gov/idc/groups/public/documents/text/idc013114.pdf; http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/factsheet/standing-with-indian-country.


Travis Coleman, Northern Ponca, is from Sioux City, Iowa and is a student at the University of Montana. He has written for Reznet since 2003.

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Montana Senate votes to adopt ‘cowboy code’

Written by at February 9, 2011

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Senate gave preliminary approval Monday to adopt the “Code of the West” as Montana’s code.

Senate Bill 216 sponsored by Senate President Jim Peterson deals with the 10-point cowboy code from the book Cowboy Ethics by James P. Owen.

The code includes items such as “Live each day with courage,” “Be tough, but fair,” “Ride for the brand,” and “Know where to draw the line.”

Peterson, a Republican from Buffalo, said the bill is about setting an example and looking to the future. Supporters of the bill also called the code a measure of guidance to uphold values.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer warned the measure could face a veto. He said he won’t sign frivolous bills, and believes that Montana families can identify their own code to live by without the Legislature’s help.

Democratic Sen. Shannon Augare, a Native American from Browning, opposed the bill, saying the cowboy’s code was not always favorable to the state’s original residents.

The code endorses a checkered past, such as brutality against Native Americans for speaking their own language, which is why the majority of the Indian Caucus opposes the bill, Augare said.

“Not all values and principles that were held by the state during that time period were acceptable,” he said.

The book “Cowboy Ethics” was originally published in 2005 and is targeted at Wall Street mismanagement.

Wyoming adopted Owen’s code of the West as its state code last year.

The bill passed by a vote of 34 to 15. It faces one more largely procedural vote in the Senate before going to the House.

Cplyright 2011 The Associated Press

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